Democrat Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Diane Gibson, and Cynthia Borrego have introduced an ordinance called “the Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance”.
Sponsoring city councilors point to an “online” petition signed by a mere 750 people and public comments from a dozen or so people who spoke at the December 17, 2018 city council meeting as a “ground swell” of support for the ordinance.
According to the ordinance, it is intended to:
“protect and enhance the city’s unique and precious environment, wildlife and beauty through the reduction of single use non-compostable or non-recyclable bags, straws and containers and to encourage the use of reusable or sustainable options.”
The city ordinance would prohibit retailers from providing customers single-use plastic bags or foam containers for their purchases.
The ordinance if passed would prevent businesses from distributing single-use straws unless they are paper or biodegradable.
The proposed city ordinance would require businesses that give out “plastic straws” to have them available upon request in order “to provide accessibility options for persons with disabilities and medical requirements.”
The city council ordinance will make it illegal to distribute single use paper bags “and any single use carry out containers” such as used in restaurants, unless they meet the city’s recycling standards.
The ordinance will require businesses to issue notices to customers that the containers are recyclable.
The ordinance recommends that businesses encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.
Language in the city council’s proposed ordinance acknowledges that compliant bags or containers may be more expensive and therefore allows retailer businesses to charge customers up to 10 cents for each one they distribute.
Albuquerque City Councilor Cynthia Borrego, one of the ordinance sponsors, had this to say:
“Numerous major American companies including Starbucks, Hyatt, and McDonald’s have already announced plans to end such uses of single-use plastics and we want to support and encourage other businesses to do same”.
Democrat Mayor Tim Keller on January 8, 2019, signaled his support of the ordinance with the following tweet:
“Thanks to @PatDavisNM, @IkeBenton, @_Diane_Gibson, & @Cynthia4Council for introducing the bill to get rid of unnecessary plastic in our city! Looking forward to working together to make Albuquerque more sustainable. #OneAlbuquerque — Mayor Tim Keller (@MayorKeller) January 8, 2019”
The proposed ordinance also would require a study in fiscal year 2022 to determine the impact of the legislation.
Violations of the ordinance would be criminal and classified as a misdemeanor.
A NATIONAL TREND
The Albuquerque City Council ordinance is a reflection of United States major cities to limit the use of single use plastic straws and containers to protect the environment.
Seattle, Washington became the first major United States city to ban plastic straws while the state of California bans restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws.
New York City’s controversial citywide ban on “polystyrene” containers began January 1, 2019 and the ban targets single use foam takeout containers, cups, plates, bowls and trays.
New York City now joins cities including San Francisco, Minneapolis, Oakland, Portland and Seattle in banning polystyrene foam containers.
In 2014, Santa Fe became the first city in New Mexico to restrict the use of plastic bags, but the big difference is Santa Fe City councilors did not impose a ban but passed a resolution “encouraging” businesses not to provide plastic straws.
THE USUAL OPPOSING SUSPECTS
Not surprising, restaurant and food industry organizations, and business organization, including the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, are lining up to oppose the Albuquerque city ordnance.
The private sector is calling the ordinance as an “unnecessary, over regulation of businesses that would will hurt consumers in Albuquerque.”
According to New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight, similar laws around the country have strained the available supply of biodegradable takeout containers by saying “What they’re asking for is not always available.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
With four city councilors sponsoring the proposed “Clean & Green Retail Ordinance” it means only one more vote is needed to make it city law with Mayor Tim Keller already signaling his support that he will sign it upon passage.
Alas, 2019 is an election year and City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton are running to be elected again to the city council.
City Councilor Pat Davis courageously proclaimed “[With this ordinance] … you have the ability to charge for … [the more expensive packaging], and you can blame it on us [the city council!]”.
Let’s hope voters in his City Council District do just that come the Tuesday, October 8, 2019, municipal election day and blame him for the ordinance as well as the disaterouse ART Bus project that so many of his constituents opposed as he refused to put it to a public vote.
To Benton, Davis and Gibson, there is nothing like an environmental issue such as the banning of plastic straws and polystyrene plates and cups to ingratiate yourselves to the progressive base and Democrats in your district after supporting the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed Route 66.
Making a violation of the ordinance a misdemeanor crime is heavy handed and raises the prospect that our short handed police department will be chasing after “plastic straw and polystyrene cup and plate dealers” and providers.
Protecting the environment is a noble cause, but the city is facing far more serious problems that the city council and the mayor should be debating and finding solutions to especially when it comes to the city’s crime wave and its children.
The city council debating the banning of plastic straws and polystyrene cups and containers comes across as a city council who are either out of touch with what is important or just plain callous to what is truly important and what is going on in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque’s crime rates are going down, but the city is still way to violent.
In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders.
In 2018, under Keller’s first year in office, there were 67 murders.
Two police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours in December, 2018.
Albuquerque’s kids are being killed, and you hear absolutely no expression of distress, anger or outrage from the Albuquerque City Council which makes things very surreal for many.
During the last 4 weeks, the city has seen a one-year old baby left to drown by his parents in a bathtub with the baby buried in a backyard, two teenage boys, ages 14 and 15, involved with a drug deal gone bad, beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave, and young juvenile girl who was killed by her 15 year old cousin who left her body in an arroyo, yet you hear absolutely nothing and no comment from City Councilors Benton, Davis, Gibson, and Borrego, nor anything from the other 5 city councillors on the crimes.
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier went out of their way to do a press conference to address the 4 murders.
Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:
“Our community has been shaken by the recent deaths of these children and teenagers. These tragedies have ripped through our city, hitting home just how vulnerable young people can be. At one year old, Anastazia Zuber was only just beginning her life. Our community also lost a young girl to violence at the hands of a family member. And the deaths of teenagers Ahmed Lateef and Collin Romero showed us the depths of the challenges that young people today are facing. It is simply wrong and we cannot allow it to become normal. . .In 2019, we are continuing to invest in public safety and create opportunities for kids, especially those at risk. We are joining with neighborhoods, churches and community organizations to work hand-in-hand to address these challenges, and pushing for more diversion and prevention programs in our city”
Police Chief Mike Geier had this to say:
“As first-responders, our officers are profoundly impacted any time they investigate the death of a child, no matter the circumstance. We have been challenged as a community with the deaths of several children in the past few weeks. As we grieve these losses, we want the community, and especially the families of these children, to know that officers are committed to pursuing justice on their behalf. … I ask the people of Albuquerque to join with us and redouble our efforts to protect children and support them when they need it most.”
It is idealistic and commendable that the Albuquerque City Council want to protect us from ourselves and our environment from our use of plastic straws and polystyrene cups and plates.
Some form of the ordinance probably does need to be enacted, but with input from affected businesses.
The ordinance should not provide for criminal penalties with civil citations and fines being in order.
With that said, the City Council need to spare us from feel good legislation such the “Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance” and concentrate more on protecting our kids first and reducing our violent crime rates.
Frankly, the city can wait a while to be saved from the ABQ “Plastic Straw And Polystyrene Plate And Cup” Cartel as we deal with far more urgent problems.